Unocal lawsuit (re Myanmar)

Pipeline, By: SeanMack, Creative CommonsA group of Myanmar residents filed a lawsuit against Unocal in US federal court in 1996.  The plaintiffs alleged they had suffered human rights abuses such as forced labour, murder, rape and torture at the hands of the Myanmar military during construction of a gas pipeline, and that Unocal was complicit in these abuses.  Unocal and Myanmar’s military government were in a consortium for the pipeline’s construction.  The parties reached an out-of-court settlement in which Unocal agreed to compensate the plaintiffs and provide funds for programmes in Myanmar to improve living conditions and protect the rights of people from the pipeline region (the exact terms of the settlement are confidential).  This settlement was accepted by the court, and the case was closed on 13 April 2005.

Background materials
- “Tentative Settlement of ATCA Human Rights Suits Against Unocal”, Red Orbit, 24 Jul 2005
- “Tale of Rape and Murder on Burmese Pipeline Haunts US”, Andrew Gumbel, Independent [UK], 11 Dec 2003 [overview of case as of Dec 2003]
- Unocal: [PDF] “Background: The Yadana Pipeline and Activist Lawsuits”, 2 Dec 2003
- Unocal: “The story you haven’t heard about . . . The Yadana Project in Myanmar” [general information regarding Unocal’s activities in Burma]
- Center for Constitutional Rights (NGO representing plaintiffs): “Synopsis” [of Doe v. Unocal lawsuit]
- Earthrights International (NGO representing plaintiffs): “Doe v. Unocal” [background materials]

Settlement
- Analysis:  [PDF] "The Unocal Settlement: Implications for the Developing Law on Corporate Complicity in Human Rights Abuses", Rachel Chambers, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University [Australia], in Human Rights Brief, Washington College of Law, American University Fall 2005 
- Analysis: “Unocal Announces It will Settle a Human Rights Suit: What is the Real Story Behind Its Decision?”, Anthony J. Sebok, Brooklyn Law School, in FindLaw’s Writ, 10 Jan 2005 
- Unocal: “The story you haven’t heard about . . . The Activists’ Lawsuits”, 4 Apr 2005 
- Center for Constitutional Rights: “Historic Advance for Universal Human Rights: Unocal to Compensate Burmese Villagers
- Earthrights International: "Court Denies Unocal's Efforts to Shift Responsibility for Human Rights Abuses [in Burma] to its Insurers", Lillian Manzella, 14 Jun 2006
- Earthrights International: Common Questions and Answers, 2 Apr 2005


Certain legal briefs filed in this case [from website of attorneys for plaintiffs, Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris and Hoffman LLP]

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Article
23 January 2006

Going Nowhere

Author: Michael Schuman, TIME Asia

By doing business with Burma, Asian countries help its brutal military regime stay in power—while the Burmese people remain trapped in a time warp of poverty, oppression and economic misrule... China exports household appliances, chemicals and medicines, and Burma ships back jade, seafood and timber. [refers to Total, Petronas, Daewoo International, Korea Gas, ONGC Videsh, Gas Authority of India Ltd. (GAIL), China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), Shin, Unocal (part of Chevron), Triumph International]

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Article
1 January 2006

Chevron fights rights abuse allegations

Author: Terence Chea, Associated Press

The haunting images displayed in a photo exhibit at San Francisco City Hall claim to document the devastating effects of more than three decades of oil extraction in Ecuador's Amazon rainforest... Humberto Piaguaje...blames [Chevron] for sickening his people and poisoning his homeland. He's one of 30,000 plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that alleges San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. failed to clean up billions of gallons of toxic waste dumped in pristine rainforest in Ecuador... Chevron, one of the world's largest oil companies, has denied human rights and environmental violations in the 180 countries where it operates, but allegations of abuse threaten its public image around the world... Investors don't appear to be worried... Fadel Gheit, a senior energy analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., believes the company will likely win both cases [the Ecuador case and a US case related to alleged complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria], and if they are forced to compensate victims, the payments won't be big enough to affect the bottom line. "It's nothing but background noise," Gheit said. But critics say the company's troubles in Nigeria and Ecuador are part of a deeper problem. [also refers to Texaco (part of Chevron), PetroEcuador, Talisman, Unocal (part of Chevron)]

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Article
1 January 2006

Total Denial [official film website]

Author: Milena Kaneva, director/producer

A pipeline built in Burma by TOTAL and UNOCAL [now part of Chevron]. Doe vs. UNOCAL, the first lawsuit of its kind. The victory of 15 indigenous people from the jungle of Burma over a leading corporation in a U.S. court.

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Article
30 December 2005

Alien Tort Claims Act Lawsuit Alleges Slavery and Child Labor on Liberian Firestone Plantation

Author: William Baue, SocialFunds.com

Last month, the International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) filed an Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) case in US District Court in California against Bridgestone alleging "forced labor, the modern equivalent of slavery" on the Firestone Plantation in Harbel, Liberia... "We've had a policy in place for many years against child labor--there are strict guidelines forbidding the use of children as laborers," [Dan MacDonald, director of media relations for Bridgestone-Firestone] said. [also refers to Unocal (part of Chevron), Wal-Mart]

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Article
9 December 2005

[PDF] Joint NGO Submission, Consultation on Human Rights and the Extractive Industry

Author: ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group

The ESCR-Net Corporate Accountability Working Group has assembled a set of case studies related to the extract industries as a contribution to the work of the Special Representative. The case studies reveal patterns of violations and gaps in the protection of human rights, including environmental and indigenous peoples’ rights. [refers to Bogoso Gold (part of Golden Star Resources), Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), Konkola Copper Mines [joint venture Vedanta Resources, Zambia Copper Investments & ZCCM Investments], TVI Pacific, Glamis Gold, Unocal (now part of Chevron), Chevron, Freeport-McMoRan, Total, Talisman Energy, Anvil Mining, AngloGold Ashanti, Echo Bay Mines, Metalor, Compañia General de Combustibles (part of Southern Cross), Vedanta Resources, Placer Dome, Texaco (now part of Chevron), ExxonMobil, Riggs Bank (now part of PNC Financial Services), Abayak, China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), Petronas, Sudapet, Lundin Oil, OMV, Gulf Petroleum (Qatar)]

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Author: Red-DESC - Grupo de Trabajo sobre la Responsabilidad de las Corporaciones

El Grupo de Trabajo de la Red-DESC sobre la Responsabilidad de las Corporaciones reunió una serie de estudios de caso relativos a las industrias extractivas, como una contribución al trabajo del Representante Especial. Los estudios de caso revelan patrones de violaciones y vacíos presentes en la protección de los derechos humanos, incluyendo los derechos ambientales y de los pueblos indígenas. [se refiere a Bogoso Gold (parte de Golden Star Resources), Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), Konkola Copper Mines (joint venture Vedanta Resources, Zambia Copper Investments & ZCCM Investments), TVI Pacific, Glamis Gold, Unocal (parte de Chevron), Chevron, Freeport-McMoRan, Total, Talisman Energy, Anvil Mining, AngloGold Ashanti, Echo Bay Mines, Metalor, Compañia General de Combustibles (parte de Southern Cross), Vedanta Resources, Placer Dome, Texaco (parte de Chevron), ExxonMobil, Riggs Bank (parte de PNC Financial Services), Abayak, China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), Petronas, Sudapet, Lundin Oil, OMV, Gulf Petroleum (Qatar)]

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Author: Réseau-DESC - Groupe de travail sur la Responsabilité des Corporations

Le Groupe de Travail du Réseau-DESC sur la Responsabilité des Corporations a réunit une série d’études de cas concernant les industries extractives, tels qu’une contribution au travail du représentant spécial. Les études de cas révèlent des patrons de violations et des vides présents dans la protection des droits de l’homme, comprenant les droits environnementaux et des peuples indigènes. [fait référence à Bogoso Gold (partie de Golden Star Resources), Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC), Konkola Copper Mines (joint venture Vedanta Resources, Zambia Copper Investments & ZCCM Investments), TVI Pacific, Glamis Gold, Unocal (partie de Chevron), Chevron, Freeport-McMoRan, Total, Talisman Energy, Anvil Mining, AngloGold Ashanti, Echo Bay Mines, Metalor, Compañia General de Combustibles (partie de Southern Cross), Vedanta Resources, Placer Dome, Texaco (partie de Chevron), ExxonMobil, Riggs Bank (partie de PNC Financial Services), Abayak, China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), Petronas, Sudapet, Lundin Oil, OMV, Gulf Petroleum (Qatar)]

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Article
8 December 2005

[DOC] Remarks by John G. Ruggie - Business & Human Rights Seminar - Old Billingsgate, London, December 8, 2005

Author: Professor John Ruggie, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights

[includes sections on "Complicity" and "Sphere of Influence"] By far the most serious instances of corporate involvement with human rights abuses take place in countries euphemistically described as “weak governance zones.” Some members of the business community have maintained that compliance with host country laws disposes of their strictly legal obligations in relation to human rights. But as a matter of logic, host country jurisdiction cannot suffice where it does not exist...[T]o date too many governments have responded to the tumultuous evolution of business and human rights over the past decade as though they were spectators if not mere bystanders...The fear expressed by some observers that human rights are becoming “privatized” has one main cause: governance gaps and governance failures...[I]n my view, the strategy of imposing direct obligations on companies under international law for the broad spectrum of human rights does not recommend itself at this time, if our aim is to achieve practical results.

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Article
31 October 2005

Senator Feinstein's Now-Withdrawn Statute Limiting Non-Citizens' Tort Claims: How Would It Have Affected Abu-Ghraib-Related Civil Suits and Other Similar Civil Actions?

Author: Anthony J. Sebok, Professor, Brooklyn Law School

On October 18, Senator Diane Feinstein introduced the Alien Tort Statute Reform Act...Business groups praised Feinstein but she was attacked by human rights and labor groups. Within a week, Feinstein had withdrawn her amendment...Feinstein's proposed amendment would have made a number of changes to the ATS, but two stand out: First, had the amendment been passed, a defendant then could be sued only if he was a "direct participant" in the wrongful conduct that injured the plaintiff. Second, had the amendment passed, the plaintiff would have had to prove that the defendant acted with "specific intent to commit the alleged tort." [refers to CACI, Titan (now L-3 Titan, part of L-3 Communications), Unocal]

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Author: Florence Gerber, Déclaration de Berne

[Intervention lors de l'Atelier organisé par le CETIM et la Déclaration de Berne: "Normes internationales en matière de droits humains pour les entreprises", Forum de MultiWatch] Comment demander des comptes à une entreprise mutlinationale pour violation (ou complicité de violation) des droits humains ? Il existe une possibilité intéressante aux Etats-Unis: l'Alien Tort Claims Act, une loi qui autorise les victimes de graves violations de droits humains...à demander des réparations devant les tribunaux états-uniens. Il ne s'agit donc pas de plaintes pénales, mais civiles... L’utilisation de l’ATCA contre des entreprises a suscité toute une série de contre-attaques. [fait référence à Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Crédit Suisse, Nestlé, UBS, Unocal (partie de Chevron)]

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